Church leaders unite for anti suicide crisis

Andersontown News

Leaders of the four main churches in Ireland have met with anti-suicide group PIPs to talk about the crisis in self-harm and suicide in North Belfast.
Archbishop of Armagh Sean Brady, Church of Ireland Primate Dr Robin Eames, Presbyterian Moderator Ken Newell and Methodist President Brian Fletcher met with the group to discuss the issues around suicide and self harm recently at St Malachy’s College.
Phil McTaggart said the meeting was “very constructive”.
“We put our points across to the main leaders of the churches as people working at the coal face and on the ground fighting to combat the issues.”
Figures show 132 people in the Eastern Health Board took their own lives in 2003. And the PIPs groups says it knows of over 20 people who were lost to suicide last year.
The latest figures for Ireland as a whole state that 577 people took their own lives in 2004. More people die through suicide than on Irish roads and the country has the highest number of suicides per capita in Europe.
More people have also died in the last 30 years through suicide than in the whole of the conflict.
“We also put our concerns to the churches about the lack of funding and clear strategy for dealing with this crisis. They certainly listened to what we had to say,” he said.
There is no still strategy in place in the North of Ireland. That is despite clear strategies in the South and in Britain.
The PIPs project has formed links with scores of groups across Ireland and this week visited Ballynahinch to give advice to a new group setting up in the Co Down town.
“This is a crisis of epidemic proportions and the sad point is that people who are self harming have been totally let down by the government and health services and we at PIPs are still calling for funding. We need a suicide task force to be set up to prevent further increases,” said Phil McTaggart.
Counsellor Joe Barnes said he was encouraged by the meeting of the high level group.
“The church leaders seemed very interested in what was happening. We put across to them the need for a strategic plan dedicated to suicide with its own funding and not just part of the mental health remit,” he said.
“We told them of the need for a partnership between the statutory bodies, government, the health service and the volunteer community groups on the ground.”